The hot and dry weather conditions may be forcing farmers to have second thoughts before commencing paddy transplantation through the traditional puddling technique on the officially notified date of June 10, those opting for the water-saving DSR (direct seeding rice) technique have already begun sowing their crop.
These growers, though few in number, began sowing on June one and till date around 1,200 acres of paddy have been sown in Amritsar district through the DSR method. The district agriculture department is expected to bring around 15,000 hectares (37,500 acres) under the DSR technique out of the total 86,000 hectares under paddy cultivation this year.
"The area under DSR cultivation is small but this is just a beginning and perhaps in the coming years this technique will become popular. It does not only check groundwater exploitation but it tremendously cuts down the input costs that go into sowing through the puddling process", said chief agriculture officer (CAO) Paramjit Singh Sandhu while talking to Hindustan Times at Khairabad village near here on Monday.
Balbir Singh, a farmer of the village was busy sowing the HRK-47 paddy variety through the DSR technique, which involves sowing the crop in a dry field with the help of a seed drill. The farmer, riding his tractor, had just one labourer to assist him, which was quite in contrast to half-a-dozen farm hands he had hired last year in the same field for transplanting the paddy through the puddling method.
The seed drill had been provided by the agriculture department free of cost. An official of the department was at hand to guide the farmer, who took 45 minutes to sow an acre. In contrast, transplanting an acre, which is done manually, takes almost two hours, depending on the number of hands at work.
"The rate for transplanting an acre in our village is `2,500 this year. But I am not spending anything on labour as the person assisting me is my regular employee. So this is one major saving", stated Balbir Singh while adding that he will be sowing paddy over an area of 5 acres through DSR technique.
Balbir Singh had sown the PUSA-1121 basmati variety through this new method in 2012. The yield he got was 16 quintals per acre. The CAO explained that through puddling method, the yield of this variety touches 18 quintals per acre.
"I was satisfied with the yield as my input costs were exceptionally low. I did not spend on labour, the expenditure on diesel was less and I did not have to operate my generator whenever there was power failure during transplanting. But above all, I saved precious groundwater and the health of my soil", the farmer said and added that the wear-and-tear of the tractor is also more in the traditional method.
Sandhu pointed out that puddling an acre at the time of transplanting consumes 20 to 25 cm water. In DSR technique, light irrigation is carried out after the sowing and it does not involve filling the field to the brim, he added.
He pointed out that in order to popularize this technique, they had demanded 15 seed drills for giving it to farmers free of cost, So far, 10 drills have been received and these have been distributed among the interested growers.
Last year, the DSR technique was experimented in 350 acres and in the previous years in around 300 acres.
Paddy will be sown over a total area of 50 acres in Khairabad through the DSR technique. Tarsika village, with 100 acres already sown, has taken the lead in promoting this water-saving method.